Stranger Things

David Harbour Calls Method Acting Nonsense, and He’s Right

David Harbour is everyone’s favorite hot disgruntled dad. If he isn’t, sorry for you, but seeing him as Jim Hopper in Netflix’s Stranger Things delights me to no end. But there was a time in his career when Harbour used a technique known as the Jared Leto nonsense brigade (a.k.a. Method Acting), and he is now talking about how much it sucks. And having Harbour talk about his horrors and even take on Daniel Day-Lewis? The kind of content I’m here for.

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I’ve talked before about Method Acting and why, as someone who studied acting and knows what Method originator Konstantin Stanislavski actually meant and that what we’re now seeing is not the same thing, it is dangerous. So to see David Harbour, who also studied Method Acting and even used to use it, talk about how he thinks it’s nonsense and even pointed out that the “respectable” example of it is still nonsense? Delightful.

“When I was younger — it’s so embarrassing — but I remember playing that famous Scottish King,” Harbour told GQ magazine. “And being like, ‘I’m gonna kill a cat’ or something: ‘I’m gonna go murder something to know what it feels like to murder.’ I didn’t actually do it, obviously. Not only is that [method acting] stuff silly, it’s dangerous, and it actually doesn’t produce good work.”

The famous Scottish King he’s referring to is Macbeth in the Shakespeare play of the same name. Macbeth does murder, mainly because of the ideas that his wife Lady Macbeth puts into his head, and while Harbour’s example is on the extreme side of things, it does highlight the fact that Method Acting is a lot of nonsense. When GQ went on to bring up Daniel Day-Lewis, Harbour said, “He’s an extraordinary actor who I’m captivated and fascinated by. [But] when he explains his process it sounds like nonsense to me.”

No one needs to go “method”

Yeah, everyone uses Daniel Day-Lewis as an example of the exception, but to that I say: Okay. He’s not the best thing to ever happen to acting, so using him as an example, as if his performances are the only answers to acting, just feels disingenuous. Harbour is completely right in that he’s captivating, but his prep work sounds like nonsense. No one should have to live their life as Abraham Lincoln did for a role. I’m sure the man who played Lincoln in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure did not do so with Method Acting, and his performance was great.

My point is: Method Acting has been taken to extremes over and over again. We’ve seen the horror stories that come from any Jared Leto performance, and there has never been a “Method” performance that is so spectacular that I thought, “Wow, that must have all been worth it after all.” I’m glad that Harbour moved away from it (and didn’t murder a cat), and I want to continue have honest conversations about Method Acting, because glorifying it isn’t what we should do at all. It’s, as David Harbour said, nonsense.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.